New Permit Focuses on Stormwater as a Resource

On June 16, the California State Water Resources Control Board adopted an order that provides a framework to promote integrated stormwater capture and reuse to improve water quality, protect local beaches, and supplement water supplies. The new permit focuses on using stormwater as a resource and encourages green infrastructure and groundwater recharge.

“This innovative permit not only advances water quality protection, it also incentivizes the management of stormwater as a significant resource — for water supply, urban greening, and other uses,” said Felicia Marcus, chair of the state water board. “Our collective objective should be to use each scarce drop of water, and each local dollar, for multiple local benefits — flood control, water supply, water quality, and urban greening in the face of climate change.”

The new permit will apply to Los Angeles County and more than 80 municipal permittees. The order seeks to resolve issues with a 2012 stormwater permit issued by the L.A. Water Board that received 37 petitions challenging various aspects.

The 2012 permit encouraged implementation of low impact development requirements, water-quality-improvement-driving provisions consistent with the requirements of 33 total maximum daily loads, and requirements for monitoring at outfalls that previously had not been required. Along with the strong permit requirements, the permit also laid out an option for municipalities to implement the permit on a watershed scale to incentivize coordinated watershed-based solutions; facilitate collaboration and cost-effectiveness; prioritize actions; and ensure improved water quality.

The state water board’s order upholds the Los Angeles County stormwater permit with some changes. The state affirms the requirement that municipal stormwater permits should include requirements to meet water quality standards. The order also upheld several additional challenged provisions of the permit, including specific pollutant limitations, monitoring and reporting requirements, and provisions to effectively prohibit non-stormwater discharges.

However, environmental groups as well as municipalities have expressed objections to the revised permit. Municipalities are concerned about the cost of implementing stormwater harvesting measures, while environmental groups say that the permit does not do enough to encourage stormwater capture and to force implementation of water quality measures in the short term.

Check it Out

On May 29, the California State Water Resources Control Board announced 30 school districts and institutions throughout California will receive more than $30 million in funds to educate students and create on-campus projects related to stormwater capture and water conservation. The grants are presented through the DROPS Program, developed in response to California’s drought state of emergency issued in January 2014. Funds are provided to schools and school districts for projects designed to reduce stormwater pollution and provide multiple benefits, including water conservation, water supply augmentation, energy savings, increased awareness of water resource sustainability, and reduced dry-weather runoff.

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One Response to “New Permit Focuses on Stormwater as a Resource”

  1. Fred
    July 9, 2015 at 10:02 pm #

    While the focus on stormwater as a resource is overdue (this is CA we’re talking about), the main step forward for the permit as modified by the State Board is that MS4s remain in compliance while preparing and implementing management programs. At the end of the day, they still have to comply with water quality standards which does not appear feasible for stormwater — all stormwater can’t be captured and used. So this action kicks the can down the road for a few years. California has elected to require MS4s to comply with standards–its discretionary with the states–and at some point this compliance problem will have to be addressed.

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